Copyright
Rights of the articles on No Man’s Land are reserved to the original authors or media. No Man’s Land is authorized to reproduce and distribute the articles freely. Users may distribute the articles on No Man’s Land accordingly to the above terms of use, and shall mark the author, and provide a link to the article on No Man’s Land .
「數位荒原」網站上文章之著作權由原發表人或媒體所有,原發表人(媒體)同意授權本站可自由重製及公開散佈該文章。使用者得按此原則自由分享本站收錄之文章,且註明作者姓名、轉載出處「數位荒原」與網頁的直接連結。
Contact
Please fill out your information to contact No Man’s Land .
The information you supply will only be used by No Man’s Land .




Subscribe No Man's Land
Please fill out your email to get the latest from No Man’s Land .
The information you supply will only be used by No Man’s Land .
Unsubscribe No Man’s Land
Cutting Colonists’ Heads: Interview with Togolese Rapper Elom 20ce
斬斷殖民者之顱:專訪多哥饒舌歌手ELOM 20CE
November 9th, 2020Type: Performance
Author: Benjamin Lebrave, 致穎 (翻譯) Editor: Rikey Tenn
Quote From: africasacountry.com
Note: Togolese rapper Elom 20ce picks his references as meticulously as he can. In every medium he works, he sprinkles numerous historical and cultural references, laying out his political orientation. A quick glance at his videos shows that the references and symbols are multifaceted, from ceremonial masks and stilts to carefully chosen Kente patterns... Originally published on "Africa is a Country" website (africasacountry.com/2016/01/elom-20ce-liner-notes), this interview with Elom 20ce is conducted by the founder of Akrwaaba Music, Benjamin Lebrave.
©Elom 20ce. Photo: Emerson Lawson

We talk to Togolese rapper Elom 20ce who aims to bring his politics to the masses.

I can’t think of many rappers anywhere on this planet who pick their references as meticulously as Togolese rapper Elom 20ce. In every medium he works, he sprinkles numerous historical and cultural references, laying out his political orientation. A quick glance at his videos shows that the references and symbols are multifaceted, from ceremonial masks and stilts to carefully chosen Kente patterns. The Lomé-based MC choses to rap in French to reach out to the broadest audience possible, and sees his work as a mission to pique the curiosity of Francophones around the globe, particularly those located in that swath of land sitting between Dakar and Antananarivo.

Being a rapper, the main canvas for his mission is his music. In a recent chat, he took time to break down the second verse from his new song “Vodoo Sakpata,” off his new album Indigo, which helps to clarify his mission in general:

 

Can you explain the meaning of couper la tête aux colons en véritable asrafo(genuine asrafo cutting colonists’ heads)?

Elom 20ce: Asrafo is a reference to warriors in Ewe tradition. They are said to hold mystic powers. We’re told that on the battlefield, “they have the power to have their enemies swallowed by the earth. When the head remains on the surface, they come to chop it off.” “Couper la tête aux colons en véritable Asrafo” is a métaphore to say we need to put an end to those who humiliate and deplete Africa: the colonists.

 

Elom 20ce, "Vodoo Sakpata" from the album Indigo

Chilembwe, Kimathi – Can you tell me what they represent for you, and for your audience?

Elom 20ce: John Chilembwe was a Baptist educator and political leader who organized the uprising against British colonists in Nyassaland, today Malawi. Dedan Kimathi was the Mau Mau leader, warriors who fought for Kenya’s independence.

They understood the importance of getting organized to fight against the system which oppressed them. They understood the importance of educating the masses. Chilimbwe created a network of African schools. They also understood that violence is necessary to liberate a people from systemic exploitation which itself uses violence. To rely on the colonists’ good conscience would be totally naïve.

Despite being both killed, their struggle contributed to the independence of both Kenya and Malawi.

 

Can you tell us what “Gnawoé, mila wô doakaka di la vôlé n’ti, élabéna, miabé djéna bé dô wom miélé” means?

Elom 20ce: The truth is we will accomplish our task efficiently, because our rights are at stake.

 

Lomé, Ouaga(註1), Conakry, Accra – besides the rime, why these particular cities?

Elom 20ce: Lomé because it is my home town. The other cities, because I am linked to other engaged artists there, working towards enhancing the conscious of their people. Besides, Ouaga because of Sankara and his heritage, Conakry because of Amilcar Cabral, Sékou Touré and their heirs, Accra because of Kwame Nkrumah and his legacy. At the time, they all worked together. Today, we have consumed and digested the balkanization of Africa. These cities abolish the borders drawn in Germany during the Berlin conference.

 

Who do you mean by compadores? People work for major multinationals?

Elom 20ce: Not only. There are people working for multinationals that are not compradores, or at least not intentionally. I’m talking about those chosen by the imperialists, those they put in place to support their vision and handle the dirty work on the ground. Basically (they are) relays of the imperialists among the oppressed population.

 

Gobineau, Ferry, Foccart – how do you see their role and impact on Africa?

Elom 20ce: They are all racists from different generations, who stole Africans like animals, who worked towards dehumanizing and destabilizing Africa. Arthur de Gobineau wrote an essay about the inequality of human races in 1853. Apparently he inspired Hitler. Anthénor Firmin responded with his book about the equality of human races in 1885.

©Elom 20ce. Photo: (left & central) Oman Seth; (right) Emerson Lawson

Elom 20ce: In 1885, Jules Ferry held a speech at the French National Assembly to defend colonization. I learned this from Kwame Knrumah’s book Africa Must Unite. Here’s an excerpt from his speech of July 28, 1885:

Colonies are an advantageous capital investment for rich countries […] For the crisis faced by all European industries, the foundation of a colony creates a new market. Gentlemen, we must speak louder and more truthfully! We must say openly that superior races have a right in regards to inferior races […] because they have an obligation to them. They must civilize the inferior races.

Foccart was the man in the shadows for De Gaule, Pompidou and Chirac. He was the man behind the coups and other detabilizing operations in Francophone Africa, even in Angophone countries as well: during the Biafra war in Nigeria, the French backed Ojukwus and armed them via Omar Bongo’s Gabon and Houpouët Boigny’s Côte d’Ivoire.

 

Crois-tu que je m’égare quand je dis que les miens sont pris pour cible? Regard Haiti (Do you think Im confused when I say my people are a target? Look at Haiti) What link do you see with Haiti?

Elom 20ce: What I’m saying is imperialists are organized, and often work strategically so that Africa, and even the Caribbean islands, do not develop. I am using Haiti as an example because it is a country they tried to asphyxiate from birth. When it freed itself from its chains in 1804 after defeating Napoleon’s army, the cost for its independence became paying the “colonial debt”: in 1825, 21 years after independence, Charles X (then King and ruler of France) asked that Haiti pay a compensation of 150 million gold francs to be left alone. In other words, reimburse former colonists and guarantee privileged commercial trade with France. The country was born dead, and it’s no coincidence. If you say no to France, you become its enemy and it crushes you. I could have said in my lyrics, look at Guinea, in reference to Sékou saying no, and all of the operations of sabotage that followed. For instance the fake Guinean franc bills poured into the country to destabilize the Guinean currency. But I already mentioned Conakry earlier, and wanted to also insist on my opinion that Haiti is a part of Africa.

 

Sharpeville, Marikana(註2) – do you think most people in Togo, or elsewhere in Africa youve traveled to, are aware of these incidents, and do you think they impact their concerns and conversations?

Elom 20ce: Within a certain milieu, yes; within pan-Africanist network. Such events remind of Cabral(註3)‘s speech, “Like a Fish in the water”: the enemy is not the white man, but the oppressor, no matter the color.

 

Can I ask you the same thing about Biko or Shaka Zulu(註4)?

Elom 20ce: Biko, Chilimbwe, Kimathi are not all that known in Lomé. But I am addressing my words to the entire world, not just to the Togolese. I’m referring to people who did a lot for Africa’s emancipation, yet were not always so well known. We often hear about Mandela, etc. There are others. My goal with these references is to tease people’s curiosity so they go and find out who they are. The title of the album, Indigo, is a reference to the seventh color of the rainbow, which is not actually visible to the naked eye. I want to make room for the unknowns. This explains the photo of my mother on the CD cover, and the image of the lady with a weapon in her hand and a rifle in the other on the CD itself. Shaka Zulu however is known in Togo, thanks to a TV show directed by William Faure, which many African stations broadcasted in the late 1980s.

Footnote
[1] Ouaga is the short term for Ouagadougou, which is the capital of Burkina Faso.
[2] The Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, and the Marikana massacre on 16 August 2012 in the South African.
[3] Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (1924 – 1973) was a Bissau-Guinean and Cape Verdean agricultural engineer, pan-africanist, intellectual, poet, theoretician, revolutionary, political organizer, nationalist and diplomat. He was one of Africa's foremost anti-colonial leaders.
[4] Bantu Stephen Biko (1946 –1977) was a South African anti-apartheid activist. Shaka Zulu was the King of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828.
See Also
Cutting colonists’ heads ,Benjamin Lebrave